Serenity is peace amid the storm

church sign acceptance and letting go

Ye olde church sign offers a play on the Serenity Prayer, and if the world could use more of anything in these imperfect times, it’s serenity.

An acquaintance mentioned to my husband how much she loves the messages I put on our sign. Music to my ears! Between the sign and the belfry, there’s no mistaking our house was once a church, but I’m OK with that. It was once a church, so of course it looks like one. I accept what is on that front. But it’s nice to hear when someone finds inspiration in my work as evidenced by the sign.

If I struggle, I struggle with letting go of what was. Especially is what was offered familiarity and comfortableness and sometimes even joy. And now it’s gone. What was was easier. Now is harder.

I want to have faith in what will be. “I believe! Help my unbelief!” Having faith is a mantra I can get behind. Faith in what will be is hope in the future, and I want to be hopeful.

That little pink flower from the church sign that made its way into the frame of my picture⁠—that’s faith. A tiny bit of evidence that color and beauty and life exist inside the box.

 

 

 

TV news story shows polish of Church Sweet Home

The story Pauleen Le at CBS 58 worked up about Church Sweet Home casts a flattering light on our renovation project in a way my amateur photography on this blog or the black-and-white shots in my memoir never could.

video screen shot
A screen grab of the video.

To see Le’s Sunday Morning show story, click here. It’s worth five-and-a-half minutes of your time just to hear the church bell and creak of the door into the sanctuary. If you’re a regular reader who hasn’t had the opportunity to visit this little Methodist Mecca/Phoenix from the ashes in person, this video will satisfy your curiosity. The drone shots gave us a look even we have never seen of our house!

At one point in the video, I say “And we did it!” In a story about us and our house, that’s absolutely correct, but I feel compelled to credit here the workers and skilled craftsmen who helped us: St. Johnny, You-Can-Call-Me-Al, Reroofer, the Michelangelo drywallers, Glimfeather the plumber, Low Talker the painter, the spiral stairway proprietress, the electrician, the Lighting Savant, the expert at the glass store, our friend at Home Depot who rented us a floor sander twenty times, the guys who poured the driveway, the man who operated the crane that dropped the rafters for the Garage Mahal, several relatives who helped us in various ways, and many others. We did it, but we didn’t do it by ourselves.

Check it out, and let Pauleen Le know if you like her story. Thanks to her and her team, too.

 

 

Church Sweet Home to be featured on Sunday morning TV

It’s felt a little like living on a movie set this week.

Pauleen Le of CBS 58 in Milwaukee stopped by this week to interview Tyler and me about converting the church into a home and about my book about the process. Kyle, the cameraman, brought along lights and cameras, and we provided the action, which mostly involved chatting on the couch but we also showed them around the chome and pointed out all our favorite parts. We had a lot of fun.

drone
You can see the drone in the upper right corner filming our belfry.

Another afternoon, Dan stopped by and took some photos of the exterior of the church with a drone.

If you’re a neighbor and you wondered why we were ringing the bell like we just bought it, that’s why. We were showing off. For all the times I’ve written about our church bell with all kinds of flowery description on this blog, viewers may get to hear it for a change.

The story is scheduled to air during the 7 o’clock telecast of the CBS 58 Sunday Morning show (5/31) and again during the 9 o’clock rebroadcast on WMLW-TV. Tune in and see our star turn!

Free to be you and me

Memorial Day Church Sign 2020

It’s Memorial Day. You have the freedom to observe it with solemnity or celebrate it with joy (and barbecue sauce). However you spend it, please do it in accordance with the health guidelines of your locality and treat the essential workers you encounter with respect.

By the way, if you live in the vicinity, open your ears at 9 a.m. I am ringing the church bell this morning in observance of the holiday.

Thank you very mulch

mulch flower garden

Mr. Go Big or Go Home borrowed a dump truck and hauled eleven loads of mulch today to tuck our trees and bushes into bed.

mulch bushes
In this not-often-seen view of the church from the northeast end of our property, you can see multiple piles of mulch in the hedge yet to be spread by St. Johnny and, in the middle there, one of our lilac bushes just about ready to burst into full bloom.

And then Tyler picked up a load of mushroom compost for the vegetable garden (an even dozen dump truck loads of material).

mulch chives
This is my robust chive plant at the base of the flagpole, nestled in rich compost.

Tyler reported that Home Depot was packed late this afternoon. The check-out line in the nursery department was forty gardeners deep (he transported his purchases inside for self-checkout). Watching the activity around here, one might be forgiven for mistaking this for labor day weekend instead of Memorial Day weekend (I worked up a sweat documenting it).

IMG_4628

A very present help in trouble

Be still

A friend gave me this word art, and I knew immediately I wanted to display inside the belfry room of our chome.

The belfry room remains halfway between unrestored and finished. I actually ran out of primer when painting the walls, which is evident in the picture.

I appreciate the symbolism of this message, displayed in my unfinished space in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. All of life right now is in the space between before and after. God is here, too, if only we can stand still long enough to know it.

April showers bring May flowers

Despite a deadly virus. Despite snow and severe weather. Despite a total lack of attention. Look what’s blooming.

flowers ground cover

Little purple petals, covering the ground.

flowers purple

A poof! of blooms.

flowers tulip 2

Oh, those hardy tulips. Every year.

flowers dandelion

And hostas, too. As you can see, nothing keeps a dandelion down.

flowers tulip 1

And here’s my favorite. A lone tulip, blooming in the front garden. A former member of the church planted this tulip who knows how many years ago. Tulips are such a beautiful reminder that what we do now matters later.

A big thank you to my photographer, St. Johnny, who obliged to finding evidence of flowers in my yard for me.

As lovely as they are, I have a few more flowers in my archive to share with you. These fresh flowers were given to us by the spiral stair proprietress for our open house last fall, a generous gift of congratulations. My mother, bless her heart, arranged them for me. Enjoy the bouquets.

flowers dining room table

flowers island
I love those lilies.

A couple bathroom vanity bouquets. And my favorite…

flowers balcony

Mom arranged this one in an heirloom art deco vase given to me by my mother-in-law.

I hope these flowers have brightened your day!

Nothing is more beautiful than the loveliness of the wood

Here is a great spring spruce-up project, and I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear it involves paint, my favorite transformer.

I claim no credit for this before-and-after. Tyler’s idea, Tyler’s execution. Bravo, Tyler!

side door before
BEFORE

This is how our side door looked when we purchased the church. Once inside, you could enter the main floor or go down the steps to the basement. The food pantry had been operating in the basement, so this was the most commonly used entrance to the church then. When we acquired the church, the food pantry had moved across town, and nature was reclaiming the scenery as evidenced in this picture.

During reconstruction, we eliminated the entry to the main floor, but the door remained to provide access to the basement. The door was in good shape and functional, having been installed sometime in the ’70s or ’80s, I’m guessing, but it looked a little too commercial for our tastes, especially since it was on the same side of the house as the magnificent castle doors that replaced the ugly red ones at the main entrance.

So Tyler repainted the side door. With wood grain!

Using a wood grain tool he acquired in his favorite method (that is, the internet) and two colors of paint (lighter and darker), he made the door look like it’s made of wood instead of fiberglass.

side door wood grain
Here’s a close-up of the wood grain.

Tyler’s tips: Remove the door (don’t paint in place), remove the door hardware, paint outdoors, and don’t do it in full-sunshine when it’s 90 degrees (that last tip, he learned by sweaty experience when he completed this project last summer). We already had one of the paint colors, so for less than $30, we got a new door.

side door after
AFTER

So much better. I hate that exterior light above the door. The electricity was unhooked (uncoupled? eliminated?) during construction, so the light doesn’t work. It’ll get rewired when we finish the basement at some point, and I’ll find a new fixture then.

So there you go, an effective afternoon project that updates a visible part of your house.

# # #

Today’s headline is a partial quote from George Washington Carver, early 20th century scientist. Allow me to respectfully share the full quote:

“Nothing is more beautiful than the loveliness of the woods before sunrise. At no other time have I so sharp an understanding of what God means to do with me as in these hours of dawn.”

~ George Washington Carver

Selected readings from Church Sweet Home

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

When in a pandemic, do everything at a social distance.

So it is with book launches.

Second only to an in-person reading inside our chome is a Facebook Live video of me reading passages from the memoir based on this blog, Church Sweet Home: A Renovation to Warm the Soul.

If you’re interested in me or the memoir or the guy who made it all most of it happen, check out this impromptu event we hosted on Tuesday evening to celebrate the launch of the book:

 

The event was “public,” so I might be mistaken, but I don’t think you even have to be on Facebook to watch it. It’s about 15 minutes long.

I’m an indie author, which means I don’t have a publicist. I appreciate any love you have to share. If you’re a fan and a maven, that is “a trusted expert, who seeks to pass timely and relevant knowledge on to others,” I would love for you to share the video or any of the following with your friends and family:

And if you read the book and like it, please review it wherever you bought it and/or on Goodreads.

And not to worry, I’ll keep you apprised of goings on at Church Sweet Home right here. In fact, I’m headed out (wish me luck and good health!) to collect some info this very afternoon to share with you later. Have a great weekend!

 

 

Church Sweet Home, the book, comes out today

The big day has finally arrived.

My memoir based on this blog comes out today at online booksellers everywhere.

CSH Book Front Cover Only

The book version of this blog has a new prologue, a proper ending and none of the navigation challenges of reading individual blog posts. If you’re already a fan, it’s a lovely keepsake and an easy way to let a friend in on the story. It’s the perfect choice in the middle of a pandemic when you need to be reminded of how wonderful home can be. Here’s the official blurb:

After buying an old Methodist church to renovate into their home, a plucky fifty-something couple who gets excited by reclaimed wood and deals on Craigslist goes to work, undaunted by risks to their marital relationship, creaky bodies and bank account.

The 126-year-old structure has been stripped of pews, the altar, even the kitchen sink. The wiring is a Frankenstein mix of early 20th century knobs and tubes, copper wire and modern Romex. And the seller discloses the 40-foot bell tower is “rooted,” which the intrepid homebuyers Tyler and Monica take to mean as “rotted.” Friends wonder if there are bats in their belfry, literally and metaphorically, as the pair spends months juggling contractors of varying dependability, wandering around a thousand home improvement stores and sanding miles of wood floors, laboring to prove the doubters wrong.

Based on the real-time memoir Monica blogged by night, Church Sweet Home chronicles the amusing, exhausting and ultimately satisfying fixer-upper follies of turning a derelict community treasure into a dream home.

At some point, I may have a book signing at the chome, but I’m not ready to promise such an event in light of unseen viruses. Instead, I’m throwing a virtual party: Join me (and Tyler, too) for a Facebook Live book reading at my author page. (Early on in the life of this blog, I promised it would be little like a long episode of Fixer Upper, and I expect this Facebook Live appearance will be a little like those sideline conferences between Chip and Joanna.) Also, in honor of the Tequila Budget (and sure, Cinco de Mayo, too), we’ll toast with a shot of tequila. Here are the details:

If the link doesn’t work, try searching for “MonicaLeeWriter” on Facebook to find my author page (go ahead and “like” it while you’re there).

To get your hands on Church Sweet Home: A Renovation to Warm the Soul, the paperback is $12.49 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Prefer an ebook? You’re in luck. The ebook is $4.49 and available at Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook and Kobo.

If you feel so inclined, please review the book at the outlet where you purchased it. Self-published authors love reviews.